Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Of Salt and Wine – The Philosopher Winemaker's Story

The Gironde is famed for being the home to Bordeaux's wines of the Medoc but in times gone by the great estuary was a source of salt. There are still salt marshes and salt pans along the estuary, although most of the land in the Medoc was transformed into vineyards in the 17th and 18th centuries. Salt and wine have been transported by boat up the estuary for centuries and I have a lovely tale about the discovery of 'Les Rubis de Valentine', a salt infused with wine, and its reinventor, the Philosopher Winemaker.

In the early 1900s, thanks to the vagaries of the waves and weather a sailor in Libourne discovered, to his horror, that his shipment of salt had become stained with wine that had spilt from the barrels. The white crystals of the salt were now ruby red and he was at a loss as to what to do with it. He could not trade it so he offered it to Valentine Cornier, a cellarman's wife. Captivated by its colour, Valentine infused the salt with spices and used it in dishes prepared in her family kitchen. The salt became a family secret and was named after her 'Les Rubis de Valentine' which translates as 'Valentine's Rubies'.

Valentine Cornier was the grandmother of Pascal Delbeck, a 5th generation winemaker. Pascal must have inherited some of his grandmother's instinct for innovation as he is one of its unsung pioneers when it comes to inventions. Known as the 'Philosopher Winemaker' and the 'Leonardo da Vinci of Viticultural Research' Pascal worked with Madame Dubois Challon at the prestigious First Growths Chateau Ausone and Belair in Saint Emilion. Pascal turned his mind to developing inventions to assist in winemaking and it was he who introduced the first sorting tables, gravity flow systems and helicopigeurs to Bordeaux.
Belair flourished under Pascal's care and in 2003 Madame Dubois Challon left it to him when she died. It was a fantastic gift but Pascal had no personal fortune of his own to maintain such a grand estate and he sold it to JP Moueix in 2008 due to the huge inheritance tax demands imposed on him by the French government. However Madame Dubois Challon also left Pascal her smaller, less well known vineyards, which he was able to keep: Chateaux Tour du Pas Saint Georges (Saint Emilion), Tresor du Grand Moine and Ame de Musset in Lalande de Pomerol and La Grave Moustey and Dubois Challon (AOC Bordeaux). These are now run under his company Delbeck Vignobles et Developpements.

Pascal's other great passion is marrying food and wine and his work has taken him overseas to Spain, the USA and Turkey. Not surprisingly he has turned his attention to recreating his grandmother's salt recipe. He takes the natural sea salt of the Ile de Ré and infuses it with wines from his own vineyards and spices. The result is Seldevin, a salt made with Merlot and Cabernet wines.

These wine infused salts bring flavour and originality to many dishes: from duck, lamb, beef, gravy and casseroles to seafood, salmon, scallops, squash, salads, pasta, pork and poultry. They are fantastic if used as a marinade rubbed over steak. 
Salt and wine make an amazing combination and who would have thought that their rediscovery would lead to such a fascinating winemaker!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Scent of Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion has its own scent . . . literally. Alienor de Malet Roquefort has created Eau de Saint Emilion a delicate perfume that is said to capture the soul of Saint Emilion – its rich history, the aroma of roses, the purity of the ancient limestone and its ancient wine making heritage. Alienor comes from the great wine making dynasty that own First Growth Chateau La Gaffeliere, Chapelle d'Alienor and Chateau Armens. The Malet Roqueforts are one of the oldest families in Saint Emilion, having lived there since the 16th century.

Alienor was inspired to create her perfume in 2005. She says that she has always been sensitive to smells; wine has its own bouquet, as does perfume. Creating a perfume follows similar principles to that of wine making. Both wine and perfume making use a process of transformation – from grape to wine and from flower petal to essence and both rely on the oenologist and their 'nose'.

Eau de Saint Emilion was developed in close collaboration with an expert perfumier in Grasse (which is famous for its perfume industry). The perfume is bottled in Saint Emilion itself. The Eau de Saint Emilion perfume range consists of 4 fragrances: Vert Frais, Fleuri, Fruité and Boisé; Arômes de Saint Emilion for men, and also includes scented soaps room sprays and candles.

There are other perfumes that are made by chateaux owners, notably Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte founded Caudalie, which has a range of perfumes inspired by the fragrance of the grape flowers and vines: Fleur de Vigne, Zeste de Vigne, Thé de Vigne and Figue de Vigne. Ginestet, part of the Taillan Group that own several well known chateaux across Bordeaux (Citran, Gruaud Larose, Broustet, Haut Bages Liberal, Chasse Speen) have 3 perfumes inspired by wines: Sauvignonne, Botrytis and Le Boisé.

However Eau de Saint Emilion is unique in that its intent is to express the spirit of Saint Emilion itself. It's a lovely concept and if you'd like to try it for yourself Alienor's range is available at and also at the Tourist Office in Saint Emilion

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Irish Cuisine, Cheltenham Festival Week, Ardglass Potted Herring and Sparkling Wine from Alsace

There is a decidedly Irish theme around here at the moment; its Cheltenham Festival Week and Irish horseracing fans have flocked to the town en masse. The Festival has always been popular with the Irish, St Patrick's Thursday is the racing day before the famous Cheltenham Gold Cup. What's more Saint Patrick's Day falls on the 17th March so shamrocks and guinness are the flavour of the month. I have been looking for an Irish recipe to try and now Spring has a firm foothold with the weather turning warmer I thought a lighter dish would suit.

There is an old recipe that has really caught my attention. It's a traditional Irish dish called Ardglass Potted Herring. Ardglass sits on the east coast of County Down and a hundred years ago it was a booming centre of the herring fishing industry. The fishing fleet has long gone but Ardglass Potted Herring was still sold locally until a few years ago. Today the dish is kept alive by restaurants and countless family homes with each one having their own variant, handed down over the generations.

Potting – the sealing of meat, cheese and fish with fat or butter – has been used for centuries in the UK and it has delicious results. It has seen a bit of a revival recently with top chefs championing the method, such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Nigel Slater and (in particular) James MacKenzie, to name a few. I have enjoyed Potted Shrimps in the past but the Ardglass Potted Herring is more like a Soused Herring as it is cooked in a mild vinegar marinade. I think the dish must have acquired the name 'Potted' as in the old days they were baked in a fireproof pot. I have a secret passion for Rollmops (pickled raw herring wrapped round slices of onion or gherkin) – which, incidentally are also seeing a revival thanks to the recent interest in Scandinavian cuisine. So I can recreate an old dish and yet be at the height of fashion!

Ardglass Potted Herrings

8 herrings, fileted and heads removed
2 bay leaves
allspice (or ground cloves)
malt vinegar

Lie the herrings flat and dust with salt. Roll them from the tail up and place in a greased baking tray. Pack them in tightly so that they support one another and don't unroll. Pour in a 50/50 mix of malt vinegar and water to just cover the herrings. Add the bay leaves and sprinkle the allspice over the herrings. You can vary the recipe by scattering breadcrumbs or brown sugar over the herrings – or by drizzling honey. Bake in the oven for about 25 – 35 minutes until the herrings have browned. Serve with crusty bread.
Wine Pairing

Sparkling wine from Alsace pairs very well with this dish. Cremant d'AlsaceBrut from Jean Baptiste Adam is very aromatic and enhances spicy cuisine with its flavours of baked apple, brioche and spice. It has floral and fruity notes of apricot and acacia blossom and a dense and fine mousse of bubbles.


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Valentine's Day, Venus, Scallops and Chateau Climens

If you are looking for the perfect Saint Valentine's Day dish to prepare for your loved one then Coquille St Jacques fits the bill very nicely. This is a famous French dish made of a blend of scallops in a cream and butter sauce and traditionally served in the shell of the scallop. The scallop is the symbol of Venus (Aphrodite), the goddess of beauty and love. Legend has it that Venus was born from the sea foam in the ocean, rising from the waves on a giant scallop shell. This myth has given scallops their reputation as an aphrodisiac and the sweet flesh of the scallop has been a favourite food for centuries.

Scallop shells appear in art, history and legend – Botticelli's masterpiece The Birth of Venus is one of the most famous. Coquille St Jacques takes its name from Saint James (Saint Jacques in French) and the scallop shell is his emblem.

Saint James was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman of Galilee, and brother of John the Evangelist. He was one of the Twelve Apostles and legend tells of his mission to Spain and burial at Compostella, which then became one of the great centres of Christian pilgrimage. It was well-established as a place of pilgrimage by the 11th century, next in importance to Jerusalem and Rome. A scallop shell was carried by pilgrims to Santiago de Compostella and served both as a symbol of the pilgrimage as well as a drinking cup. Pilgrims would ask for sustenance at the churches, forts and abbeys along the way and it's said that they would be given as much sustenance as they could pick up with one scoop of the scallop shell. This meant that even the poorest household could give charity without being overburdened.

Coquilles St Jacques

Some recipes actually use Sauternes rather than a dry white wine in the ingredients. You can pep the recipe up with grated ginger if you like and the choice of cheese varies from Gruyere to Parmesan.

1 tbsp olive oil or butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
8 scallops
125ml white wine
150-160ml double cream
1 good handful freshly grated cheese
handful of fresh parsley

Preheat the grill. Heat the oil or butter in a frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and fry, stirring, for 2–3 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Remove the mixture from the pan and set aside, leaving any juices behind. Reheat the juices in the pan. When they are very hot, add the scallops and cook them for 20–40 seconds on each side until golden. Return the garlic and onion to the pan, followed by the white wine, and cook rapidly for 1–2 minutes until the liquid is reduced. Stir in the double cream and cook steadily until further reduced and thickened. Spoon the scallop mixture into a flame proof dish or scallop shell and cover with grated cheese. Place the dish under the grill until the cheese is golden. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Wine Pairing

The Pilgrim Way of Saint James actually runs through the Bordeaux wine region and the emblem of the scallop shell can still be seen on churches and buildings marking the Way or indicating that they were places offering food and shelter. The city of Bordeaux itself served as a port for pilgrims coming by sea and there were stopping points along the Way throughout the appellations. I mentioned earlier that Coquille Saint Jacques can be made with a splash of Sauternes so it seems appropriate to pair this dish with one of the best. Chateau Climens is one of the great white sweet wines of Bordeaux and is a First Growth (Premier Cru) from the Barsac region. Climens lies opposite Chateau Roumieu (the place name roumieu means a stopping-off point on the Pilgrims Way) and Climens' reputation over the centuries has gained it the nickname of the 'Lord of Barsac.'

Climens is one of the rare single variety growths of region, it's made from 100% Semillon and its wines are stunning. They are renowned for their intense bouquet and have aromas of pineapple, vanilla and apricot with flavours of quince, honey and candied fruits. The wines of Climens have a wonderful balance of power and finesse and would be a fantastic accompaniment to this Valentine's Day dish.


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Cream of Parsnip Soup and Bordeaux White Wine

At this time of year there are a few vegetables left standing in the Kitchen Garden that have braved the winter; brussels sprouts and parsnips being amongst them. Parsnips actually taste sweeter after the first frosts but given our waterlogged winter we haven't seen much ice so far. Before sugar cane became Britain's source of sugar the parsnip was used to sweeten jams and cakes in the Middle Ages. I've read that the Ancient Romans enjoyed eating parsnips in honey and that the Emperor Tiberius had part of the tribute payable to Rome by Germany in the form of parsnips. Nowadays parsnips don't feature much in modern Italian cooking but they are fed to pigs that are bred to make Parma ham!

I have a lovely recipe for Cream of Parsnip Soup that is a great winter warmer. You can spice it up with a sprinkling of Feta cheese, crispy bacon pieces or with croutons tossed in chilli oil.

Cream of Parsnip Soup

1 lb parsnips, sliced
4 medium potatoes, cubed
1 onion, sliced
1 litre chicken stock
1 bay leaf
100ml single cream
50g butter
salt and white pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onions. When they are lightly browned, add the potatoes and parsnips. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf. Cover the vegetables with chicken broth and simmer over low heat about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and take the pan off the heat. Pur
ée the mixture with a blender. Add the cream and stir until blended into the soup. Serve hot.

Wine Pairing

A fruity white wine will echo the sweetness in the parsnips but you will also need one that will cope with the cream in the soup. A Bordeaux Blanc with a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes would be a good choice. Chateau Les Eymeries is made with a 50 / 50 blend of these grapes and has very good balance. It's well crafted and very moreish in its own right with crisp, fresh flavours of sweet melon, pink grapefruit and apple with a subtle hint of pineapple and honey.


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Chinese New Year 2014 - The Year of the Horse, Roast Duck and Melon Salad with Champagne

This year the Chinese New Year begins on 31st January and is the Year of the Horse. There are several traditional foods that are served over the Chinese New Year to celebrate and to bring luck. Duck symbolises happiness and fidelity and is also a popular dish at Chinese wedding banquets. As the Lantern Festival (the Chinese Valentine's Day which marks the end of the New Year celebrations) falls on Saint Valentine's Day on 14th February this year I thought a duck recipe would be rather appropriate!

Roast Duck and Melon Salad

1 fresh duck (about 2kg / 4 lb)
1 ripe melon (you can use different melons if you want a more colourful salad, eg watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew)


2 tbsp salted soya beans (mashed)
4 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp Light Soy sauce
½ tsp Dark Soy sauce

1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp Sweet and Sour sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
red food colouring

For Blanching

2 litres water
1 cup Chinese Rice vinegar
1 cup Chinese Rice wine
2 large lemons (or limes), sliced
3 tbsp honey


4 tbsp Plum sauce
3 tbsp light Salad oil
1 tsp Sesame oil
1 cup melon juice

Wash the duck and pat dry with kitchen towels. Mix the seasoning ingredients in a bowl and then put inside the duck cavities. Close the duck cavities with skewers.

Bring the blanching ingredients to the boil in a large pan. Hold the duck firmly in one hand and use the other to ladle the liquid over the duck for about 1 minute. Rub the duck with red food colouring. Hang the duck up in an airy space for at least 2 hours to dry the skin thoroughly.

When the duck is dry, put it into a hot oven and roast for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool. Before serving, debone the duck and cut it into slices.

Slice open the melon and discard the seeds. Carve out melon balls using a scoop. Blend the remainder of the melon flesh to make your melon juice. Combine the rest of the sauce ingredients, stirring to mix well.

To serve, arrange the duck slices and melon balls on a plate and pour over the sauce.

Wine Pairing

As for what wine is suitable to celebrate the Chinese New Year, well it has to be Champagne, of course! Why not try a Grower Champagne such as Champagne Morel Pere et Fils? Unlike major brands (Mumm, Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot etc) who buy in their grapes, Grower Champagnes are made by independent producers who own their own vineyards, grow their own grapes and make their own champagne. Champagne Morel's vineyards lie over 18 acres on the chalky limestone slopes of the Laigne valley.

Although perfect as an aperitif or a toast, Champagne Morel is also very versatile with food, pairing with salty and savoury appetizers, spicy curries, seafood, fish, poultry, cold cuts and salamis, creamy pastas and desserts.

Champagne Morel is a superb Champagne, sophisticated and refined with a fine, long lasting mousse of bubbles. It's very well balanced, combining richness with elegance and is aromatic with generous flavours of dried apricot, toasted brioche and lime blossom with delicate hints of red berries, lemon and spice.


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Lucky Pigs for the New Year and Stuffed Belly Pork with Smoked Ham

Whilst looking for images for the New Year I came across lots of vintage postcards depicting lucky pigs. My curiosity roused, I decided to find out more about them. Apparently the New Year Lucky Pig (Glucksschwein) is Teutonic in origin and is a lucky symbol across Germany and Austria. Sources say that it was once popular in England and Ireland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I've never heard of this before and asked my elderly relatives if they can remember anything about it as children but they can't. However it's still used in the USA.

Pigs have been symbols of strength, wealth and fertility since ancient times – the Norse goddess Freyja rode a boar with golden bristles and pigs were sacred to her. Lucky pigs made from marzipan, sugar, fudge, chocolate or cookie dough are traditionally given in Germany as a gift on New Year's Eve. In Austria suckling pig is served on New Year's Day and often the table is decorated with sweet Lucky Pigs. The four leaf clover is also another symbol used with the Lucky Pig and sometimes green peppermint ice cream is served in the shape of a four leaf clover after the roast pig course. I wonder if this was inspired by the saying 'happy as a pig in clover'?

Dutch superstition says that eating pork on New Year’s Day brings good luck because a pig roots forward to look for its food, while chickens scratch backward and cows stand still. In Norway and Denmark, a tradition involves a rice pudding or porridge with a whole almond baked inside. The person who finds the almond in their dish receives a Lucky Pig as a prize.

A common saying in Germany is 'ich habe Schwein gehabt' (I have had pig), which means 'I've been lucky!' The saying is thought to have come about as you were considered lucky to have fattened up a pig, which meant you would have meat to survive the winter. The pig's status as a lucky charm in Germany is also supposed to date back to old decks of playing cards in which the Ace was known as 'die Sau' (a sow).

There is a mouthwatering recipe for Stuffed Belly Pork (Der Gefuellte Schweinebauch) that might be fun to try out over the New Year. Who knows it might bring you a little luck too!

Der Gefuellte Schweinebauch

1 kg belly pork
salt and black pepper to taste
1 swede, cubed
1 onion, quartered

2 cloves garlic, crushed


100g beef mince
100g smoked ham
100g breadcrumbs
1 bunch fresh parsley
pinch of sugar
handful of fresh marjoram
1 onion, finely diced

Cut a deep pocket into the belly pork. Mix the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl and stuff the pocket in the belly pork. Tie or sew the pocket shut with culinary string. Score the skin of the belly pork with a sharp knife and rub with salt so that it will form crackling as it roasts. Place in a deep roasting tin with the swede, onion and garlic cloves. Roast in an oven at 190ºC until the skin is crispy. Serve with mashed potatoes, the vegetables cooked with roast and gravy made from the juices in the pan.

Wine Pairing

Belly pork is actually the cut that produces streaky bacon or pancetta and Rosé pairs very well with these as well as pork, ham and gammon. Either Chateau Lamothe Vincent Rosé or Chateau Roques du Mauriac would be a good choice!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Poached Salmon in Aspic

I remember my first encounter with aspic as a child and it wasn't an auspicious one. The dish was Chicken in Aspic and although beautifully decorated I was very reluctant to taste it. Pale, cold chicken covered in jelly just didn't appeal to a 7 year old me! However I have revisited the notion of aspic recently as I have decided to do a cold poached salmon over Christmas and was looking for something that little bit special to pep it up.

Aspic is a clear savoury jelly made of stock or consommé and gelatine and used to glaze meat, fish or vegetables. It is also used to make a mould and you can even it use a sweet version for desserts. It was an old way of preserving food and recipes for aspic date back several hundred years. Originally aspic was made from stock that set like a jelly when cooled (meat stocks have a high natural gelatin content so will set when cold).

Salmon in Aspic

1 large salmon
court bouillon for poaching
300ml of fish stock
1 egg white and the egg shell
1 tbsp dry sherry
15g powdered gelatine

To make Court Bouillon

Court Bouillon is a flavoured liquid used to poaching foods (usually fish but sometimes vegetables and delicately flavoured meats). It differs to stock in that Court Bouillon has a short cooking time in comparison.

2 pints water
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 stick celery, sliced
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
pinch of fresh thyme
6 black peppercorns, bruised
½ pint white wine

Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for an hour, strain and leave to cool.

Poach the salmon in a fish kettle (or baking pan covered with foil) with the court boullion. Once the salmon is cooked drain off the court boullion into a bowl. Peel the skin off the salmon when it has cooled, leaving the skin on the head and tail. Place on a flat plate and put aside in fridge.

To make the aspic add ½ pint of the court bouillon that the salmon was poached in to the fish stock in a saucepan. Boil so that the liquid is reduced by half. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg white and add the broken egg shell to clarify. Strain the liquid through a muslin cloth and add the sherry. Stir in the powdered gelatin – keep stirring until it has dissolved. Leave to cool.

Spoon a thin layer of aspic over the salmon. Chill and leave to set. Decorate the salmon with the motif of your choice (you can use thinly sliced cucumber, radish, tomato, red pepper and carrot as well as sprigs of fennel or mint for your design) and then coat with another layer of aspic. Chill. Repeat by adding one last layer of aspic. Allow the Salmon in Aspic to set cold in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Wine Matching
Bordeaux Rosés can accompany a broad spectrum of flavours and are characteristically well balanced wines: smooth, rounded and freshly aromatic.

These crisp and elegant wines have the fruit and body to support full flavoured fish such as salmon and tuna and the acidity to match seafood. They lack the tannins of red wine and can be served chilled at the same temperatures for white wines. Alternatively you could choose a good
Bordeaux White or French Sparkling Wine.


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Battenberg Cake with a Christmas Twist

Battenberg Cake is one of my guilty pleasures and with its marzipan (almond paste) coating it always reminds me of Christmas. No one really knows its origins but it's thought that it was invented in the late 1880s.

There is a popular folk myth that Battenberg Cake was created to celebrate the wedding of Prince Louis of Battenberg to Queen Victoria's grand daughter Princess Victoria (grandmother to our Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh) in 1884. The theory behind the four sections of the cake is that they represent the four Battenberg Princes but I remember my grandmother making Battenberg Cake with 9 squares when I was a child! Early recipes did indeed have 9 squares and Battenberg Cake was also known as Domino Cake, Neopolitan Roll and Chapel (or Church) Window Cake.

The traditional recipe for Battenberg Cake is below but if you'd like to give it a Christmas twist simply use more red food colouring to deepen the pink colour to red, use green food colouring in the other portion and cover the outer layer of almond paste with white icing.

Battenberg Cake

125g butter
125g caster sugar
2 beaten eggs
125g self raising flour
a couple of drops of red food colouring
1 tbsp raspberry jam
2 tbsp apricot jam

Almond Paste

75g ground almonds
25g semolina
75g caster sugar
75g icing sugar
a few drops of almond essence
beaten egg to bind

Grease two 450g loaf tins and line the bases with greaseproof paper. Cream the butter and sugar together, beat in the eggs and fold in the flour. Divide the mixture into 2 portions and colour one pink with a couple of drops of red food colouring. Place a portion in each tin. Bake in a moderate over (Gas 4, 180ºC) for approx 25 minutes until firm. Remove from tins and cool.

Trim the sides of each loaf and level the tops. Cut each cake in half lengthways – keeping the pieces the same size. Using the raspberry jam sandwich the 4 portions together, arranging pink and white alternately.

For the Almond Paste

Combine the ingredients using enough beaten egg to make a firm paste. Use a piece of waxed paper, sprinkle well with caster sugar and on it rollout the paste to fit around the sides of the cake. Spread the paste with apricot jam and place the cake on the paste at one end. Carefully wrap the paste around the cake, pressing so that it sticks. Press the edges together to seal. Trim the ends of the cake, flute along the top edges and dredge with caster sugar.

Wine Matching

If you have a sweet tooth then Dessert Wine such as Sauternes would be lovely with the marzipan flavour of the Battenberg Cake, those of you who prefer a little zesty fizz to tingle on their tastebuds might like Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé which pairs very well with sweets and desserts.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Bread and Butter – Savoury Puddings and Christmas Dessert

Bread and butter are two of the staple foods of Britain but they can be turned into delicious winter dishes. The traditional Bread and Butter Pudding has long been a nursery favourite but its origins lie long in the past and the puddings were once known as 'whitepot' in Devon and South West England. In Elizabethan times bone marrow was used as an ingredient and I have a savoury recipe for you to try (minus the bone marrow!).

Savoury Bread and Butter Pudding

4 large slices of wholemeal or white bread

Yeast extract
125g grated cheddar cheese
1 small onion, grated
2 beaten eggs
300ml milk
salt and pepper
pinch of dry mustard powder

Butter the bread and spread lightly with yeast extract. Cut into small cubes. Grease an oven proof dish and spread half of the bread cubes on the bottom (buttered side up). Cover these with half of the cheese and then onion. Add the rest of the bread cubes and finally the rest of the cheese. Add the milk and seasoning to the beaten eggs and strain this over the pudding. Bake in a moderate oven (Gas 4, 180ºC) for 35 – 40 minutes.

There are a few variations on this recipe – you can add bacon, chanterelle mushrooms, leeks. pancetta or spinach and change the cheese to Gruyere (excellent with chanterelle mushrooms) or Blue Cheese (good with pancetta).

Christmas Bread and Butter Pudding

I usually make my Bread and Butter Puddings with slices of stale white bread spread with butter, marmalade with a splash of whiskey for good measure but there is a lovely recipe for Christmas Bread and Butter Pudding that uses Panettone (which is great for using it up if you have some left over!).

50g butter, softened (optional)
250g panettone (about 5 medium slices)
2 eggs
142ml carton double cream
225ml milk
Couple of splashes of vanilla essence
pinch of grated nutmeg
2 tbsp caster sugar

Butter the slices of panettone and cut into wedges. Grease an oven proof dish and spread the panettone wedges in the dish (buttered side up). Whisk the eggs, cream, milk, vanilla essence, grated nutmeg and sugar together in a bowl and pour over the panettone. Bake in a moderate oven (Gas 4, 180ºC) for 35 – 40 minutes.

If you wish you can also add left over mincemeat from making mince pies (or even left over Christmas Pudding) or cranberries.

Wine Matching

There are a number of Bordeaux white wines that marry well with cheese but Chateau Ballan Larquette Bordeaux Blanc is made with 50% Semillon and 50% Sauvignon Blanc grapes and pairs beautifully with cheese – from salty feta to tangy roquefort. A good Sauternes such as Chateau Sainte Helene 2004 would pair very well with your Christmas Bread and Butter Pudding – it has gorgeous notes of orange peel and cinnamon that will complement the dish.